‘Mass’ stars explain the alchemy behind their striking new drama [SUNDANCE STUDIO]

Even longtime actor Fran Kranz isn’t quite sure how he managed to pull off writing and directing the deeply affecting powerhouse drama “Mass,” about two couples who meet years after a school shooting involving their teenage sons.

“I just felt simply compelled,” Kranz says. The ideas for “Mass” began in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead. “I reacted so differently. I think it was mostly because I was a new parent and I may have responded differently just for that reason alone.”

“Mass” takes place in relative real-time as Gail and Jay (Martha Plimpton and Jason Isaacs) confront Linda and Richard (Ann Dowd and Reed Birney) years after a deadly shooting shattered both of their respective families. Over the course of an afternoon in the back of a local church, the four express equal parts of anger and forgiveness and often show a radical level of empathy and compassion that Kranz says grew from his research.

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“I think of myself as an actor. I haven’t written anything to completion before, I’ve dreamed about directing. But this thing took over my life,” he says. “I read nothing but the subject for two years. I was sort of obsessed and I made the movie like my life depended on it.”

The work paid off. “Mass” is a heartbreaking drama and all four lead actors give incredible performances that should stick with audiences long after the credits roll.

“What we were heading for, those things don’t necessarily work,” Dowd says. “In fact, I would say they most often do not. This, and I do not mean this in a religious manner, was a blessed experience. It was a protected experience, in my view. There were so many ways it could have flown off … Fran had already done the hardest thing, write it, and now you’re going to direct it. How did any of it happen, honest to God? I don’t know.”

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